The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandfather, what food is clean and what unclean, what gift is praiseworthy, and who should be considered deserving and who undeserving (of gifts).'
"Vyasa said, 'In this connection is cited the old account of a discourse between the ascetics and that lord of creation, viz., Manu. In the Krita age, an assembly of Rishis, of rigid vows, having approached the great and puissant lord of creation, Manu, while seated at his ease, solicited him to discourse on duties, saying, 'What food should be taken, who is to be regarded a deserving person (for gifts), what gifts should be made, how should a person study, and what penances should one perform and how, and what acts should be done and what acts should not be done, O lord of creation, tell us everything about all this.' Thus addressed by them, the divine and self-born Manu said unto them, 'Listen to me as I expound the duties in brief and in detail. In regions which have not been interdicted, silent recitation (of sacred mantras, homa), fasts, knowledge of self, sacred rivers, regions inhabited by men devoted to this pious acts,--these have been laid down as acts and objects that are cleansing. Certain mountains also are cleansing, as also the eating of gold and bathing in waters into which have been dipped gems and precious stones. Sojourn to holy places, and eating of sanctified butter--these also, without doubt speedily cleanse a man. No man would ever be called wise if he is indulged in pride. If he wishes to be long-lived, he should for three nights drink hot water (as an expiation for having indulged in pride). Refusal to appropriate what is not given, gift, study (of scriptures), penance, abstention from injury, truth, freedom from wrath, and worship of the gods in sacrifices,--these are the characteristics of virtue. That again which is virtue may, according to time and place, be sin. Thus appropriation (of what belongs to others), untruth,
and injury and killing, may under special circumstances, become virtue. With respect to persons capable of judging, acts are of two kinds, viz., virtuous and sinful. From the worldly and the Vedic points of view again, virtue and sin are good or bad (according to their consequences). From the Vedic point of view, virtue and sin (i.e., everything a man may do or not do), would be classed under action and inaction. Inaction (i.e., abstention from Vedic rites and adoption of a life of contemplation) leads to emancipation (from rebirth); while the consequences of action (i.e., practice of Vedic rites) are repeated death and rebirth. From the worldly point of view, acts that are evil lead to evil and those that are good to consequences that are good. From the worldly point of view, therefore, virtue and sin are to be distinguished by the good and the evil character of their consequences. 1 Acts that are (apparently) evil, when undertaken from considerations connected with the gods, the scriptures, life itself, and the means by which life is sustained, produce consequences that are good. When an act is undertaken from the expectation, however doubtful, that it will produce mischief (to some one) in the future, or when an act is done whose consequence is visibly mischievous, expiation has been laid down. When an act is done from wrath or clouded judgment, then expiation should be performed by giving pain to the body, guided by precedent, by scriptures, and by reason. When anything, again, is done for pleasing or displeasing the mind, the sin arising therefrom may be cleansed by sanctified food and recitation of mantras. The king who lays aside (in a particular case) the rod of chastisement, should fast for one night. The priest who (in a particular case) abstains from advising the king to inflict punishment, should fast for three nights as an expiation. The person who, from grief, attempts to commit suicide by means of weapons, should fast for three nights. There is no expiation for them that cast off the duties and practices of their order and class, country, and family, and that abandon their very creed. When an occasion for doubt respecting what should be done arises, that should be regarded as the injunction of the scriptures which ten persons versed in Vedic scriptures or three of those that frequently recite them may declare. 2 The bull, earth, little ants, worms generated in dirt, and poison, should not be eaten by Brahmanas. They should not also eat fishes that have no scales, and four-footed aquatic animals like frogs and others, except the tortoise. Water-fowls called Bhasas, ducks, Suparnas, Chakravakas, diving ducks, cranes, crows, shags, vultures, hawks, owls, as also all four-footed animals that are carnivorous and that have sharp and long teeth, and birds, and animals having two teeth and those having four teeth, as also the milk of the sheep, the she-ass, the she-camel, the newly-calved cow, woman and deer, should not be taken by a Brahmana.
[paragraph continues] Besides this, the food that has been offered to the man, that which has been cooked by a woman who has recently brought forth a child, and food cooked by an unknown person, should not be eaten. The milk also of a cow that has recently calved should not be taken. If a Brahmana takes food that has been cooked by a Kshatriya, it diminishes his energy; if he takes the food provided by a Sudra, it dims his Brahmanic lustre; and if he takes the food provided by a goldsmith or a woman who has neither husband nor children it lessens the period of his life. The food provided by a usurer is equivalent to dirt, while that provided by a woman living by prostitution is equivalent to semen. The food also provided by persons that tolerate the unchastity of their wives, and by persons that are ruled by their spouses, is forbidden. The food provided by a person selected (for receiving gifts) at a certain stage of a sacrifice, by one who does not enjoy his wealth or make any gifts, that provided by one who sells Soma, or one who is a shoe-maker, by an unchaste woman, by a washerman, by a physician, by persons serving as watchmen, by a multitude of persons, by one who is pointed at by a whole village, by one deriving his support from keep of dancing girls, by persons wedding before their elder brothers are wedded, by professional panegyrists and bards, and by those that are gamblers, the food also which is brought with the left hand or which is stale, the food which is mixed with alcohol, the food a portion of which has been already tasted, and the food that forms the remnant of a feast, should not be taken (by a Brahmana). Cakes, sugarcanes, potherbs, and rice boiled in sugared milk, if they have lost their relish, should not be taken. The powder of fried barley and of other kinds of fried grain, mixed with curds, if become stale with age, should not be taken. Rice boiled in sugared milk, food mixed with the tila seed, meat, and cakes, that have not been dedicated to the gods, should not be taken by Brahmanas leading a domestic mode of life, Having first gratified the gods, Rishis, guests, Pitris, and the household deities, a Brahmana leading a domestic mode of life should then take his food. A householder by living thus in his own house becomes like a person of the Bhikshu order that has renounced the world. A man of such behaviour, living with his wives in domesticity, earns great religious merit. No one should make a gift for the sake of acquiring fame, or from fear (of censure and the like) or unto a benefactor. A virtuous man would not make gifts unto persons living by singing and dancing or unto those that are professional jesters, or unto a person that is intoxicated, or unto one that is insane, or unto a thief, or unto a slanderer, or unto an idiot, or unto one that is pale of hue, or unto one that is defective of a limb, or unto a dwarf, or unto a wicked person, or unto one born in a low and wicked family, or unto one that has not been sanctified by the observance of vows. No gift should be made to a Brahmana destitute of knowledge of the Vedas. Gifts should be made unto him only that is a Srotriya. 1 An improper gift and an improper acceptance produce evil consequences unto both the giver and the acceptor. As a person who seeks to cross the ocean with the aid of a rock or a mass of catechu sinks along with his support, even so the giver
and the acceptor (in such a case) both sink together. As a fire that is covered with wet fuel does not blaze forth, even so the acceptor of a gift who is bereft of penances and study and piety cannot confer any benefit (upon the giver). As water in a (human skull) and milk in a bag made of dog-skin become unclean in consequence of the uncleanliness of the vessels in which they are kept even so the Vedas become fruitless in a person who is not of good behaviour. One may give from compassion unto a low Brahmana who is without mantras and vows, who is ignorant of the scriptures and who harbours envy. One may, from compassion, give unto a person that is poor or afflicted or ill. But he should not give unto such a person in the belief that he would derive any (spiritual) benefit from it or that he would earn any religious merit by it. There is no doubt that a gift made to Brahmana bereft of the Vedas becomes perfectly fruitless in consequence of the fault of the recipient. As an elephant made of wood or an antelope made of leather, even so is a Brahmana that has not studied the Vedas. All the three have nothing but names. 1 As a eunuch is unproductive with women, as a cow is unproductive with a cow, as a bird lives in vain that is featherless, even so is a Brahmana that is without mantras. As grain without kernel, as a well without water, as libations poured on ashes, even so is a gift to a Brahmana void of learning. An unlearned Brahmana is an enemy (to all) and is the destroyer of the food that is presented to the gods and Pitris. A gift made to such a person goes for nothing. He is, therefore, like unto a robber (of other people's wealth). He can never succeed in acquiring regions of bliss hereafter. I have now told thee in brief, O Yudhishthira, all that was said (by Manu on that occasion). This high discourse should be listened to by all, O bull of Bharata's race.'"
76:1 Appropriation etc., as in the case of the king imposing fines on offenders and appropriating them to the uses of the state. Untruth, as that of the loyal servant or follower for protecting the life of his master. Killing, as that of an offender by the king, or in the exercise of the right of self-defence.
76:2 There were, as now, persons with whom the reading or recitation of the scriptures was a profession. The functions of those men were not unlike those of the rhapsodists of ancient Greece.
77:1 i.e., one possessed of a knowledge of the Vedas.
78:1 With very slight verbal alterations, this verse, as also the first half or the next, like many others, occurs in Manu, Vide Manu, Ch. II, V, 157-58.
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